HC Deb 29 November 1989 vol 162 cc696-8
2. Mr. Brandon-Bravo

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his plans for an international conference in London on reducing the demand for cocaine and other illegal drugs.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

Her Majesty's Government are holding a world summit of Ministers in London in April 1990 to look at ways of reducing the demand for drugs, and confronting in particular the growing threat from cocaine and crack. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will open the summit and President Barco of Colombia and the Secretary-General of the United Nations have both agreed to speak.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

My right hon. Friend will agree that if this 20th century evil is to be defeated every individual, family and community must be made aware of the problem and must be prepared to will the means to defeat it. My right hon. Friend, in his previous high office of Home Secretary, took a lead role nationally and internationally in this matter. How many Departments are co-operating at home, and at what level? Apart from the London conference, what plans does my right hon. Friend have to take this matter further internationally?

Mr. Hurd

On the second point, the United Nations general assembly will hold a special session on drugs from 20 to 23 February. I hope very much to attend and to speak on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, as I mean to retain the personal involvement to which my hon. Friend kindly referred.

It now falls to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to take the lead in co-ordinating the efforts of all the Departments involved—not just in enforcement, although that is important, but in education and in reducing the demand for drugs, which in my view is even more important.

Mr. Vaz

The Foreign Secretary should be aware that in the past two years the amount of crack seizures in Britain has increased 20 times. Does he agree that the main thrust of conferences such as that to be held in London should not necessarily be international co-operation between Governments, but learning from the experiences and failures of countries such as America? America has established cocaine helplines and the Select Committee on Home Affairs has been urging our Government to do likewise. Does he agree that we should look at the examples of preventive measures that have been introduced by other nations?

Mr. Hurd

Certainly it needs enforcement and prevention. Enforcement is crucial, and we shall press ahead as fast as we can with negotiating agreements with other countries for the confiscation of the assets of drug traffickers. Eleven such agreements are now in place and I shall be looking for more. The hon. Gentleman is right that we must also learn from the experiences, good and bad, of other countries, in particular the United States. In some places effective preventive measures have been introduced, but in others they have not and we need to learn from both experiences.

Mrs. Maureen Hicks

In acknowledging the decisions taken by the Government to tackle the drugs problem— demonstrated by initiative after initiative—and welcoming the international conference, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is satisfied that our European partners and international friends recognise sufficiently the seriousness of the problem that we face?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, I think so. In my previous job I had occasion to discuss it with all the European Ministers of the Twelve who were involved. Although the approach is somewhat different in some countries, they all realise the danger. That is particularly true of the countries of the southern part of Europe—Italy and Spain—which recognise the danger of becoming motorways for the passage of cocaine from Latin America into the rest, of Europe.

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